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This is where the choices are going to get really painful for me. I have a dozen favorite songs from 1993, at least.
Ace of Base’s “The Sign” and how it marked the end of my pop music fandom for the better part of a decade. Janet’s genre-bending “If” full of sex and squalling guitars. “River of Dreams” and the one time I could connect with my father over a piece of current music. Sheryl Crow’s Tuesday Night Music Club, a front to back listenable record that is so obviously the work of a collective of songwriters rather than a singular voice.
Juliana Hatfield, Liz Phair… I can keep going.
But, if we are going to talk about songs that really changed my whole damn life, we need to be talking about Polly Jean Harvey’s breakthrough album, Rid of Me.
All of it.
I didn’t come around to Harvey until a few years after Rid of Me, when I saw Tracy Bonham cover her “50ft Queenie.” Being a voracious consumer of female-vocal rock, it didn’t take much to convince me to head down to Borders to pick up the album that contained the original.
I was not prepared for what I heard. Rid of Me is a powerful and at-times terrifying album. This had all the rawness of Hole but the measured perfection of Tori Amos. It had guttural strength that stood up to anything on In Utero and spectral power that made it seem like a spiritual sister to Bjork’s Debut. While many fans and critics prefer her To Bring You My Love, the raw power of Steve Albini-produced Rid of Me remains her seminal work in this household.
I can’t pick just one song to highlight, so let’s just talk about half the record.
“Missed” never fails to stun me. It’s a lost track from Jesus Christ Superstar, Mary’s lament to a lost Jesus kept away in a tomb after Mary Magdelene insisting “Everything’s Alright.” It’s beautiful – takes my breath away on every play even after listening to it for 20 years.
The biblical theme continues on Bob Dylan’s famous “Highway ’61 Revisited,” the title track of his 1965 record.
Oh, God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe said, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
Who on their second album decides to take a mid-record break to cover Dylan’s strutting country-rock paean to the famous road as a squalling, foreboding rock song? The Dylan original and faithful covers sound trite next to this muscular, paranoid version. The surging power chords, the surprisingly nuanced drumming, the jangling single note riff.
I’ve always felt this ought to be the credits tune to an adaptation of The Stand, with its depiction of God sparing Abraham’s son at the start to a roving gambler trying to start the next world war just to see if god would stop him in the final stanza. [Read more…] about 35-for-35: 1993 – Rid of Me by PJ Harvey